FACT SHEET: Supporting Travel and Tourism to Grow Our Economy by Improving the Arrivals Experience for International Travelers to the US
From Washington, DC, to Washington state, every year millions of travelers visit communities across America. Those visits support nearly 8 million American jobs at thousands of businesses, large and small, including an estimated 280,000 additional American jobs over the past five years. In 2014 alone, international travelers spent an estimated $222 billion in the United States.
Recognizing the tremendous potential of the tourism industry – America’s largest services export - the President launched a National Travel and Tourism Strategy in 2012 with an ambitious goal of attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. Three years later, we are on track to meet this goal and in fact have seen the number of international visitors grow from 55 million in 2009 to an estimated 74 million in 2014.
Today, the Department of Commerce (DOC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are building on the progress made by jointly releasing a new report Supporting Travel and Tourism to Grow Our Economy and Create More Jobs: A National Goal on the International Arrivals Process and Airport-Specific Action Plans that outlines new executive actions that answer the President’s call last spring to further expedite and improve the arrivals process for international travelers to the United States and sets forth airport-specific Action Plans for 17 of the highest-traffic airports across the country, accounting for 73.7 percent of all international travelers to the United States.
Facilitating Smoother Arrivals for All International Travelers to the United States
Launching a new National Goal to provide a best-in-class arrivals experience to an ever-increasing number of international visitors.
Implementing new Action Plans at 17 of our largest airports—accounting for nearly three out of four international travelers to the United States—to improve the arrivals process for international travelers.
Announcing $20 million in public-private partnerships supporting the Airport Action Plans to install 340 additional automated passport control kiosks that reduce wait times by up to 30 percent.
DHS is taking steps to improve the arrivals process at all airports, including eliminating the need for air passengers to complete the paper 6059b Customs Declaration form upon arrival by the end of 2016.
The safety and security of this country will always come first, but we can and must also ensure that the travel experience continues to be welcoming, friendly, and efficient. Today’s announcements build on progress already made by the Administration to support continued growth in travel and tourism to the U.S.: in 2013 alone, the State Department issued 9.2 million visas, up 42 percent since 2010; waiting periods for visas in important markets like Brazil and China have dropped from as high as several months to less than five days on average; and in November 2014, the State Department announced a bilateral agreement with China to increase the length of business and tourist visas issued to each country’s citizens from one year to ten years, while increasing student visas from one to five years. In the three months since that announcement, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year.
Launching a New National Goal to Improve the Arrivals Experience for International Travelers to the United States
Today, DHS and DOC released a report that responds to the President’s May 2014 Presidential Memorandum calling on DOC and DHS to establish a national goal and airport-specific action plans to enhance the arrivals process for international travelers to the United States. The national goal and concrete actions at 17 gateway airports will maximize the economic contribution of travel and tourism while safeguarding our security.
National Goal to Improve the Arrivals Experience: Based on extensive industry outreach and input from hundreds of executives and leaders from airlines, airport authorities, worker representatives, state and local governments, as well as other private and nonfederal public stakeholders, we have established a national goal to “provide a best-in-class international arrivals experience, as compared to our global competitors, to an ever-increasing number of international visitors.” On an ongoing basis, we will assess the process from the moment travelers step off the plane, through primary passport inspection, until they collect their bags and exit through final baggage inspection.
New Task Force with Industry to Build on Progress: To develop a strategy to meet the new national goal, the DOC and DHS are establishing an interagency task force, co-chaired by the Deputy Secretaries of both agencies, that will leverage the expertise of industry stakeholders to identify the key factors that drive a traveler’s perception of the international arrivals experience and how it influences the decision to travel to the United States. Over the next 12 months, the task force will establish quarterly benchmarks and engage with a broad array of stakeholders, including private sector companies with reputations for excellence in customer service and through the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board of the DOC.
Implementing 17 Airport-Specific Action Plans Developed in Partnership with Industry
The DHS has developed the Action Plans in close partnership with airports, airlines and industry. The Action Plans include significant steps to drive innovation to simplify and accelerate the entry process.
$20 million in public-private partnerships to install 340 additional automated passport control kiosks. Modern touch-screen technology allows passengers to scan their passports and enter their customs declaration information, rather than waiting in line to provide that information to customs officials. DHS continues to work with airports to make more passengers eligible to use these kiosks, reducing wait times for international arrivals by up to 30 percent.
Four new videos providing useful information on the arrival processes for both U.S. citizens and foreign visitors are available online, and for use in airports, consular offices and on aircraft. These videos are available at: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/know-before-you-go.
Taking Action Now to Modernize the Arrivals Experience at Airports Across the Country
In addition to the airport-specific executive actions in each of the 17 Action Plans, DHS is also taking new steps to modernize and improve the arrivals experience at more airports across the country.
- New mobile passport control technology to simplify and accelerate the entry process by allowing eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form through a smartphone or tablet prior to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection. Based on the successful pilot at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, CBP has committed to expand the program to the 20 airports with the highest volumes of international travelers by the end of 2016.
Process modernization, including streamlining baggage control egress and eliminating paper forms. Among many other steps, CBP plans to eliminate the need for air passengers to complete the paper 6059b Customs Declaration form upon arrival by the end of 2016.